The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our world in more ways than we can comprehend just yet. But, when the pandemic started affecting job and internship offers for graduate business students, the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business Career Management Center (CMC) stepped in.
Internship offers came to a halt. Worse, some that had already been extended were rescinded or truncated. Widely known for its compassion for individual student success and drive to place students in the very best positions, the CMC dropped everything to re-strategize its approach.
“We knew that not only did our students need meaningful experiences but that the Pittsburgh community needed help,” says Christopher Barlow, Director of Corporate Engagement and Career Management.
At the same time, the local impact of the pandemic was greater by the day: images of miles-long lines of cars awaiting help from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank made national news.
With a clear need to span this gap for students to apply their skills, knowledge, and energy, the CMC created the Bridge Program—a program designed to bridge the gap for students to attain purposeful and career-enhancing internship opportunities while providing support for community-based organizations.
Over the course of eight weeks, more than 50 graduate students matched with community-based organizations to assist in offering solutions for the complex challenges that these organizations are currently facing. Through team-based projects and guidance from staff and Executives-In-Residence (EIRs), graduate students were able to apply their business skills and experience to help the local community while developing critical skills for their future careers.
“Thanks to many of our generous and supportive Pitt Business alumni, we were not only able to get this program up and running, but also offer a small stipend to all participating students,” says Amy McCloskey, Director of Pitt Business Alumni Relations.
Developing the Bridge Program required creating structure—quickly. Fortunately, Pitt Business has been a leader in experience-based learning for decades. Modeled off of Professor Bud Smith’s Consulting Fields Project course, the internships were set up as consulting projects.
“I believe that the structure developed in support of this summer’s successful Bridge Program proved to be both efficient and flexible, such that future students can continue to positively impact local organizations for years to come,” says Bud Smith, Professor of Business Administration and Faculty Lead for the Bridge Program. “At Pitt Business, we are particularly grateful to our volunteer coaches for providing guidance to our student teams. I was honored to be part of such valuable support to our community.”
Student projects included everything from marketing and promoting a new global garden tool at the Phipps Conservatory to assessing the financial feasibility of building a mental health services center for Veterans Place, a local non-profit organization that supports homeless veterans.
“We received immediate support from all facets of Pitt Business—Dean Assad, faculty and staff, the alumni and development team, the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership, plus this legion of EIRs and executive coaches all from a new virtual workplace,” says Barlow. “This included identifying, qualifying, and scoping projects for our community partners – in two weeks. The sense of community here at Pitt Business is the heartbeat of this school.”
In addition to Phipps Conservatory and Veterans Place, local clients include the Southwestern Pennsylvania American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America—Laurel Highlands Council, Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, Pittsburgh Business Group on Health, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Pittsburgh Chapter.
To learn more about how you can help support the Bridge Program, please contact the Katz Career Management Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned to read more about the student projects!